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Making sense of job ads


“Would you like to work in an exciting employee-oriented team environment where innovation and diversity are empowered, with a progressive company that delivers full-service offerings designed to maximize value for global customers?”

Well, who wouldn’t? But what exactly does it mean? Job postings are often written in upbeat corporate jargon that is impenetrable to people who are not in the know.

Like a resume, a job posting is a kind of letter of introduction between a prospective employer and a prospective employee. Too often, however, they are written in business lingo by managers who don’t necessarily have perspective on their organization or on the position they are offering. It can make the text confusing, to say the least. What should you do when the posting is open to interpretation or seems too attractive? It is up to the applicant to do the research in order to be able to decode the text and do a reality check.

The first thing to do is to look at the organization’s corporate documentation (website, brochures, Annual Report, etc.) and try to figure out the jargon. You can also phone the company for more information about the position unless the ad specifically says you shouldn’t. If possible, talk to employees of the firm in order to sort out what is real and what is wishful thinking.

If you are called for an interview, this gives you another opportunity to clear up any grey areas. For example, if the ad mentions a stimulating work environment, you can ask the recruiter what exactly this means. What the employer considers stimulating may not correspond to the job seeker!

You should also beware if the ad promises all sorts of “possibilities”: a salary of up to $50,000, a temporary position in Nunavik with the possibility of an extension and permanent employment, a job paying $12 an hour plus attractive bonuses. You need to clarify all these points face to face.

Employers need to hustle

With labour shortages in many fields and a lack of skilled workers to replace the upcoming wave of retirees, things are changing. Employers are doing everything they can to attract competent candidates and refining their recruiting ads.
A few years ago, most job ads were published in newspapers. But with the help of the Internet, employers are turning away from print media.

They can post a job opening on the web faster, at a lower cost, and get immediate response from candidates.

Internet job postings tend to be longer than print ads. Increasingly, companies are using their job postings to push their brand image — i.e. the things that set them apart from their competitors. For example, an employer may talk about the company’s leadership position in the industry, values, or accommodating attitude towards work-life balance.

To attract candidates, some employers are dropping the standard “competitive salary and benefits” and giving a salary range and/ or listing specific benefits, such as pension plan, stock options, medical and so forth.

The Truth and nothing but the truth?

In both print media and the Internet, job ads generally give information that is true, but they tend to put a positive spin on it. Just as applicants do on their resumes.
Employers don’t usually lie but sometimes they omit useful information.

Like the car dealership that advertises a used car with low mileage but neglects to mention that the vehicle has been rebuilt after a head-on collision.

When it comes to omissions, bear in mind that employers are often prepared to compromise on their stated requirements.

The ad may call for a Ph.D. but in practice an M.A. might do. However, the recruiter doesn’t say so in the posting.

Therefore, it can be worth applying even if you don’t fully meet all the stated requirements. The purpose of a job posting is to recruit the best candidate for the position but in many cases the process is also used to compile a bank of resumes.

An applicant who was not considered for the position may get a call from the company a few months later for another job.


Some organizations have strict selection criteria. A job ad will sometimes include stipulations such as “applicants must agree to a criminal record check” or a credit check or a drug test. Is this legal? In most jurisdictions, employers are allowed to enforce conditions such as these only if they relate directly to the nature of the position.
For example, if an employer wants to make sure that a pilot has 20/20 vision or that an accountant did not embezzle funds from his previous employer, it must prove that these checks are necessary for reasons of safety or security; otherwise, they may be a violation of provincial privacy laws.

As in every stage of a job search, you have to be proactive when you are reading job ads. Be realistic and exercise due caution, especially if the ad seems too promising.

Validated by Brisson Legris – Unveiling Potentials